The reflexive anxiety of checking out other people’s cameras to see if theirs is better than yours is not really something to be proud of. However, admitting to addiction is one step to putting it behind you.

Tokyo Camera Style, by John Sypal
288 pages.
Thames & Hudson, Nonfiction.

My wife has gone through stages of exasperation, acceptance and finally amusement with my problem over the years. For my part the stages of this perversity have been awe, envy, smugness, pity and, finally, relative indifference.

But then here is John Sypal’s book, “Tokyo Camera Style,” which is filled with 288 gorgeous glossy pages of photographs — snapped on the fly in Tokyo — of classic film cameras in the loving hands of their owners. For those who think there’s nothing to see here, move along.

Yes, there may be a whiff of affectation in carrying round a beat-up film camera in the digital age, but small clues tell us that, for many of the owners, their camera is not a display of irony but a genuine passion. This is one joy of the book: picking up on the few extraneous details in each photograph that hint at the character of the person holding the camera. Another is the variety of the gear, and the way the book’s simple premise — photos of Tokyo photographers holding their cameras — can evoke so many associations. There is the Twin-lens Rolleiflex that Lee Miller had with her when she took a bath in Hitler’s apartment; the kind of vintage Leica with which Robert Capa shot the Spanish Civil War; the oversized Plaubel Makina Nobuyoshi Araki uses to perv on women around Tokyo; and the Nikon F that did so much to capture the stories of the 1960s.

Camera obsessives, I urge you not to buy this book, surely no good can come of it.


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